June 23, 2018 at 10:58 am #6261
Michael R D JamesKeymaster
Aristotle’s response to dialectical reasoning and the dialectical interaction between the positions of materialism and dualism was hylomorphic theory and its method of metaphysical logic. This method builds upon a correct understanding of the Principle of non-contradiction(PNC) which he characterises as follows in Book 4, 3-6 of his work Metaphysics:
“It is not possible for one and the same thing both to have and not to have one and the same property.”
There is also a slightly different formulation of the same principle at 1006b 33-34:
“it is impossible that it should at the same time be true to say of the same thing both that it is human and that it is not human.”
The first formulation clearly refers to reality directly and the second formulation appears to take a more circuitous route and refer to what can be “Truly said” of reality thus indicating that the PNC is not merely a logical principle regulating relationships between propositions and statements. For Aristotle the Principle refers directly to reality via our truthful claims about reality. If this is so, and this position is argued by Vasilis Politus in Chapter 5 of his work “Aristotle and the Metaphysics”, then it would appear to follow that logic is subservient to metaphysics and PNC then becomes a principle of what we would call “Metaphysical logic”. PNC on this kind of account, is a source of demonstrative proofs or explanations which itself is not subject to demonstrative proof or explanation. As a corollary of his position in this debate, Politus argues that PNC is not a so called “Transcendental Principle”, i.e. a claim to the effect that something is true of reality because it is true of thought or language. Politus has this to say on p 135:
“Aristotle argues(in Chapter 4,4) that if PNC were not true of things then we could not use thoughts and words to signify things, and in general we could not think and speak about things. He concludes that if PNC were not true of things, then thought and language about things would be impossible. PNC is rue of things because it is a necessary condition for the possibility of thought and language about things.”
This has the logical consequence that there can be no demonstration or explanation of PNC. On our account we wish to maintain, therefore, that PNC is a principle of metaphysical logic and as a consequence a principle about thought and language about things. Aristotelian metaphysics is about the form, essence or primary principle of things. PNC requires that everything in the world has explainable essences or principles. Denying that things have essences or forms or primary principles is a condition of denying PNC. If things are indeterminate(have no essence) then PNC cannot be an applicable principle. However, since PNC is true of all things, all things are determinate and must therefore have essences. Socrates has an essence, namely his humanity, and therefore we can make true non contradictory statements about him, i.e. access his “primary being” to use the expression used by Politus.
Returning to our second formulation of PNC, can we then not say that Socrates’ humanity is the primary principle or form or essence of primary being of Socrates? : and is this not that which explains what Socrates ontologically is? Aristotle believed that all living things possessed souls of different kinds or in his technical language from De Anima a soul is “the actuality of a body that has life”. But living things take different forms and Aristotle therefore constructed a matrix of life forms which defined a living things form or essence partly in terms of the physical organ system it possessed and partly in terms of the power the thing as a whole possessed. He begins with simple plants, their simple physical structures, and their powers of growth and reproduction. The matrix seems to be organised in terms of a continuum of a possible infinite number of forms only some of which are actualised because of the physical conditions of the elements of the world(earth water air fire) and their accompanying processes of wet and cold, hot and dry. The next stage of the continuum manifests itself in animal forms possessing animal organ systems and the powers or perception and locomotion(in addition to the previous plant like power). The penultimate stage of the matrix is that of humanity or the human being which possesses a more complex organ system and also more complex powers of discourse, memory and reasoning(in addition to all the lower powers previously mentioned). This matrix was an attempt to transcend the dialectical discussions of dualists and materialists and present a hylomorphic theory of the soul which would not fall foul of the PNC. This matrix is a matrix of agents and powers which in its turn is of course embedded in an environmental matrix of space, time and causation(discussed in part one).
In a sense Metaphysical Logic was metaphorically placing a curse on both the houses of dualism and materialism in order to stem the reproduction of theories from these sources. However, as we know Platonic dualism defied the metaphorical curse and was one of the motivating assumptions of Old and New Testament Religions and we also know that materialism was one of the motivating assumptions of the rise of modern science which Descartes, Hobbes and Hume were embracing in their anti-Aristotelian theorizing. As a direct consequence metaphysical logic dwindled in importance as the drama of dialectical interaction between Religion and Science played itself out at the beginning of our modern era. PNC was demoted from a Metaphysical principle to a transcendental principle of logic governing thought and language. Dualism was of course as old as the hills and Orphic, pre-Judaic, Judaic and Christian theories of the soul characterised it as a special kind of substance that breathes life into a material body embedded in a space-time-causation matrix. Materialism saved its breath for several centuries before finally claiming in the spirit of dialectical interaction that a non-physical, non extended entity cannot have causal effect in the physical matrix of the material world—this substance can move nothing in the material world because it shares none of its properties. The soul cannot be causa sui, materialists argued, by definition, because it cannot be observed either by itself or by others in its putative causing itself to do things.
With PNC, Metaphysical logic and hylomorphic theory marginalised by a “transcendental” conception of logic, the resultant chaos was inevitable. Metaphysics became identical with dualistic assumptions and Aristotle’s metaphysical logic was categorised as dualistic and it was not long before PNC’s metaphysical implications were entirely forgotten except for those die-hard Aristotelians working in a University system itself in the process of being transformed into institutions for the representation of the houses of dualism and materialism. Kant, thankfully, temporarily halted this process of “modernisation” for a short period of time until Hegel and Marx in true dialectical fashion ensured that both Kant and Aristotle were consigned to the footnotes of their dialectical Philosophies. Both Aristotle and Kant emerged as relevant Philosophical figures once again when the process of “modernisation” was again halted in England by the later Philosophy of Wittgenstein. Modernisation and the scientification of our everyday existence continues but for every halting of the process the followers of the opposition increase in number and help to construct what is now beginning to look like a philosophical tradition composed of the philosophies of Aristotle, Kant, and the later Wittgenstein and their followers.
The problem of the relation of the soul to the body must surely fall into the category of what Aristotle referred to as aporetic questions. It is also one of the key problems that needs to be addressed in the arena of Philosophical Psychology. Aristotle regarded the relation of the soul and the body as a holistic unity similar to that of the relation between form and matter. Jonathan Lear, a commentator on the writings of both Aristotle and Freud characterises this issue in the following way:
“Yet it is precisely because soul and body must form a unity in a living organism that it is difficult to distinguish them. Artefacts provided the original model for the form-matter distinction:and there is a clear sense in which a craftsman imposes form on distinct matter. With living organisms, by contrast, matter and form are intimately bound up with each other: consequently,there is no distinctly existing and persisting matter on which soul can, from time to time, be imposed. Indeed the matter of a living organism seems to depend on being ensouled to be the matter that it is. And a given type of soul, say human soul, seems to require a particular type of matter. The living organism is such a unity but the real challenge for Aristotle is to show how that unity can legitimately be conceived as having two aspect, soul and body.”
The soul is an actuality of matter(there can be levels of actuality) and living beings can be regarded as “substance” par excellence by Aristotle. His matrix of different life forms are established in terms of the kind of power that belongs to a particular form. In De Anima 15b 8-14 Aristotle maintains unsurprisingly that the soul is the moving, formal and final cause of the body. He also maintains that a particular constellation of organs are what give rise to particular forms of life. He does not claim that these organs “cause” in any modern sense the form of life—it is rather the case that these forms of life “spontaneously” cause themselves to do what they do, i.e. exercise the powers typical of their particular life form. Aristotle, as we pointed out in part one speaks of a matrix of life forms which form a hierarchy from the simplest to the most complex form: from the simplest form of vegetation to the most complex life form of God. This matrix is constituted by the differentiation of powers but the most interesting observation Aristotle makes is that the more complex life forms incorporate the simpler forms and presumably in so doing transforms their functions into more complex activities. At the level of the human being, the next most complex form of life, Aristotle provides us with three different characterisations:
1.The first characterisation is in terms of an essence specifying definition: a rational animal capable of discourse. This is clearly a kind of summary of the most important powers a human possesses.
2.The second characterisation is in terms of a careful account of how we acquire knowledge through the uses of the powers of perception, memory and reasoning which also appear to be related to powers of language and imagination.
3. The third characterisation is in terms of mans ability to reason both theoretically and practically.
There does not appear to be any conflict between the three characterisations. Hughlings Jackson a theorist who influenced Freudian theory, claimed that areas of the brain have the above kind of hylomorphic hierarchical structure. Freud used these hylomorphic ideas when he suggested his three principles of “psychic” functioning:–the energy regulation principle, the pleasure-pain principle, and the reality principle. Each of the higher principles “colonises” some of the territory of the lower principles thus transforming the human activities associated with them. Eating a meal, for example, primarily an energy regulation activity, is transformed into a civilised activity aiming at the pleasures of sitting down for a period of time with ones family. This is a clear example of the transformation of an instinctive/biological activity into a social event which may involve other powers of the mind such as engaging in discourse and reasoning at the dinner table. Freud claims that one function of language and discourse is to bring “psychic” material into the field of consciousness(where all our powers appear to be integrated). Indeed, his later therapeutic techniques appear to be presupposing the hylomorphic principle of powers building upon powers with the intent of integrating all powers in the mind. Freud is ambivalent on the question of whether consciousness itself is a power or an inherent function of the brain probably partly because of the fact that he was fighting for hylomorphism against the predominating Cartesian model of consciousness. Freud obviously also benefitted from the work of Kant. He is reputed to have said that his was the Psychology that Kant would have written had he concerned himself with this subject which had broken its moorings from Philosophy in 1870. Kant’s work had obviously recreated the space for reflection upon the hylomorphic soul and the power of thinking that Aristotle had established earlier. The Dualism-materialism dialectical interaction continued however with the appearance of the Hegelian criticism of Kantian philosophy which it must be admitted was not straightforwardly hylomorphic. Freuds work began in materialistic mode but soon rejected these assumptions and attempted to restore the Aristotelian principle based approach in the arena of what today we would call Philosophical Psychology. Even during the later phases it must also be admitted that Freud’s work is also not straightforwardly hylomorphic. There is clearly a dualistic tendency in Freud’s work which manifested itself when in his last phase of theorising he turned towards the theories of Plato for some of his key concepts(Eros, Thanatos, Ananke). In spite of these reservations however, it is clear that Freud’s theory is a theory of agency, principles and powers set in a practical context of the search for a flourishing life. The Aristotelian notion of substance implies agents that can do things and act upon things. Powers, for Aristotle, are potentialities to bring about changes in reality and this idea is clearly at work in the Freudian Reality Principle. A power is actualised as part of a cure and then belongs to the agent. Hume would probably have objected that just as we cannot observe the cause of building a house, we cannot observe powers and that therefore they are highly dubious entities. This is a logical consequence of his position that whatever happens is the only thing that can happen.
P.M.S. Hacker in his work “Human Nature:The Categorical Framework” argues that this Humean position is absurd:
“The incoherence of the position was already espoused by Aristotle. For if a thing can do only in fact what it does, then we can no longer speak of skills, since a man cannot do what he is not doing: nor can we speak of learning(acquisition of skills). We shoud be deemed blind when we are not seeing and deaf when we are not hearing.”
Hacker is of course one of the foremost commentators and interpreters of the work of Wittgenstein who, he claims, restored hylomorphic theory in the seminar and lecture rooms of our dialectical Universities. Consciousness in its non- Cartesian form enters into modern post Wittgensteinian discourse in terms of the reflective nature of the human being that possesses an awareness of their powers(unlike a magnet or snake which possess powers unreflectively). This reflectiveness, in its turn, according to Hacker, gives rise to powers that can be willfully used, i.e. powers that we can choose to exercise or not. It was this mental space that appeared to be absent in the mental space of many of Freud’s patients and it was this lack that drove Freud to postulate that the principle driving much of their activity was unconscious and in accordance with the so-called pleasure-pain principle. Hacker calls “volitional powers” in which choice is involved, “two-way powers”. Included among such powers were the powers to perceive, remember, think and reason. He further argues that both Descartes and Hume conflate empirical and conceptual issues and thereby provided assumptions for an emerging neuroscience which were incoherent and confused. As we pointed out earlier Kant attempted to correct the influence of Descartes and Hume by claiming as an axiom of his philosophical psychology(Anthropology) that human beings know a priori the difference between what they are doing and what is being done to them. Kantian accounts as we now know gave rise in the process of modernisation, to volitional theories which in attempting to classify our actions in terms of the modernist matrix of space-time-linear causation resolved a holistic activity into a causal relation between two occurrences which the process of composition could not logically unify.
Schopenhauer was already experiencing the pull of modern volitionism back into a non-Aristotelian matrix of space-time-linear causation when he claimed that:
“we certainly do not recognise the real immediate act of will as something different from the action of the body and the two are connected by a kind of causality: but both are one and indivisible….thus actual willing is inseparable from doing, and, in the narrowest sense, that alone is an act of will which is stamped as such by the deed.”(World as Will and Representation).
It is not difficult to see how volitionism is connected to the dualism-materialism dialectic and in particular Cartesianism and its pernicious form of dualism that paradoxically ends up in the brain. Platonic dualism is not pernicious in this way. It distinguishes between a world of forms and a physical world—a world of representations and the world of that which the representations are of—which Schopenhauer addresses with his distinction between the world of will and the world as representation, where the former world is connected to a priori knowledge that is non observational.Hylomorphic theory with its levels of actuality seems to be the only theory capable of “saving the phenomenon” of willing without reduction or reification. Freudian theory, we should remember, maintained that one can act involuntarily.
Hacker connects teleology to voluntary action and two way powers in the following passage:
“Human beings, like other sentient animals with wants, have the power to move, to act, at will. “to act” in this context does not signify causing a movement, but making one. We acknowledge a special role for such so-called basic actions not because they are a causing of a movement that may be the first link in a causal chain, but because they are the first act. The first thing for which a purposive or intentionalist explanation may be apt. To say that a human being moved his limb is to subsume behaviour under the category of action. It earmarks behaviour as being of a kind, that is under voluntary control, as something of a kind which is a sentient agent can choose to do or not to do, and hence indicates the propriety of asking whether there is an intentionalist explanation of the deed. The attribution of the movement to the agent is not causal. But it is an action, and therefore is of a kind that falls within the ambit of the variety of teleological explanation appropriate for human action. The agent may have moved his hand in order to… or because he wanted to…..or because he thought that….or out of fear, and so forth. Aristotle’s movement is to be understood to be liable to the range of explanations of the exercise of two way powers by a rational agent.”
This, of course, calls into question the observationalist use of the method of resolution and composition(the behaviourist psychologist). Saying on the basis of observation something about another agents movement that “His arm moved” is a description which leaves it open whether this was something he did(raise his arm to call a taxi) or whether this was rather something that happened to him(raising his arm in a fit of cramp). If the phenomenon was of the latter kind there are absolutely no grounds for calling what happened “action”.
Modernization of Aristotelian theory resulted in the scientist reasoning in the spirit of Hobbes and Hume, as part of the process of the dismantling of hylomorphic theory, that teleological explanation is not a form of explanation at all. Two reasons are given for this claim. Firstly the telos cannot be observed and secondly telos disappears in the methodical resolution of activity into linear cause-effect events. Events can then be comfortably described a-teleologically. That scientists should have spent so much effort and time in this composition and subsequent destruction of this “straw man of teleology” or “ghost of teleology” is indeed thought provoking. What is even more thought provoking is the success of their “mythologizing of teleology” and the fact that this process could prove so devastating for Psychological theories such as Freud’s and Piaget’s. Because this process was so successful it might prove useful to remind ourselves of what teleological explanation is via Hacker’s characterisation:
“Our discourse about the living world around us, about ourselves, our bodies and activities, and about the things we make is run through with description and explanation in terms of goals, purposes and functions. We characterise things such as organs and artefacts, and also social institutions in terms of their essential functions and their efficacy in fulfilling them. We explain animal morphology in terms of the purposes served by their shapes, limbs and features. This is not a causal explanation(although it is perfectly consistent with, and indeed calls out for one), since we explain what the organ or feature is for and not how it came about and not how(by what causal processes) it fulfils its function. We describe what it enables the animal to do and how it affects the good of the animal or its offspring. We commonly explain why certain substances animate and inanimate(artefactual) or constituent parts of substances(organs of living things or components of artefacts) do what they do by describing what they do it for…We explain and justify human action, including our own, by specifying the rationale of the prospective or antecedently performed action, and we often account for the behaviour of social institutions likewise. These kinds of description are called “teleological descriptions” and these kinds of answers to the question why, teleological explanations—explanations by reference to an end or purpose(telos).”(p163-4)
Hacker goes onto add that:
“Teleological explanation is typically an explanation in terms of reasons, motives and intended goals…and is said to yield understanding(Verstehen) in a distinctive form by contrast with explanation in terms of causal law that is the mark of the natural sciences.”(p164)
Hacker also agrees that teleology is linked to the idea of the good on the grounds of psuche being a biological/psychological substance whose essence it is to come into being, flourish and eventually die and decay. Living beings on his and Aristotle’s account have absolute needs tied to health and mortality. These needs extend from life-maintaining activities to activities producing the quality of life necessary for a flourishing existence. These latter activities require a considerable amount of learning and the acquisition of many complex skills. We can clearly see a hierarchy of needs emerging from this account. Abrahams Maslow’s theory is a hierarchical theory in which satisfying a need “causes” another higher level need to emerge. There is , in this theory, an “incorporation of the lower level need in the higher. Proceeding up the hierarchy eventually results in a flourishing life for the individual concerned. Maslows account includes reference to cognitive and aesthetic needs. Hacker is not directly referring to Maslow’s theory in his characterisation below but there are significant resemblances:
“Human welfare is associated with the satisfaction not only of absolute needs, but also of socially minimal needs that are a prerequisite for the successful pursuit of any normal projects that human beings adopt in the course of their lives, and hence are normally required for a tolerable life. These include the cultivation of human faculties and the acquisition of skills. The notions of normalcy and of socially minimal needs are both socio-historically relative and normative. In a society such as ours, education(the formation of character, the training in skills, acquisition of knowledge, the development of intellectual powers, and the cultivation of sensibility) is a constitutive element of the welfare of members of society. It is needed if it is to be possible for a normal person to form, and pursue with reasonable chance of success worthy life plans and projects.Welfare is part of the goal of man, but it is the lesser part…Beyond is the flourishing, thriving and prospering that nature, endeavour and future bestow.”(p175)
A large part of the task of society and its social institutions is striving toward the telos of the good: that is, for a society to be flourishing large numbers of the members of that society must experience that the conditions provided allow them to have their needs systematically met. The telos of the society, as Socrates suspected, must be connected to the telos of the individual. If an individual flourishes in a flourishing society he achieves what Aristotle refers to as the summum bonum if life, namely eudaimonia , or happiness. This can only occur, argue Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, if the society concerned is Rational. This moves us onto the question of the realm of the essence or formal “cause” of society and individual.
One of the needs of the animal and the human being is to reproduce and if the latter do so rationally a level of consciousness of the telos of sexuality is a requisite condition. Plants and animals do not possess this requisite condition, this level of reflective consciousness in relation to reproductive or sexual activity. In Freud’s theory it is the principles of energy regulation and pleasure pain that regulate reproductive activity. In the human being we are capable of regulating this activity by using the powers of discourse and reasoning. We can that is discuss the reasons for our reproductive and sexual behaviour. The essence of the individual is tied to reproductive activity for Freud but his claims only make sense in the context of hylomorphic theory. The family is obviously the social institution connected to sexual activity and the bringing up of children which appears to so many to be an important part of the flourishing life. The family is also the basic social unit which forms the basis for the construction of the polis and is therefore an important element of the flourishing polis, the Callipolis.
Aristotle’s teleological explanations seem therefore to have clear application in the realm of the human world but is the case for their application to the natural world equally obvious? Particles and matter for example are not naturally thought of in terms of being “for” anything and the reason why particles and matter do what they do is also not directly relatable to their internal potential to move but rather to some propensity to move when caused to do so by external factors. In a low pressure system, for example where the air is cooled the matter in the system will descend in the form of rain after having ascended in warmer circumstances to form clouds. This might suffice for some to attribute a telos to the evaporated water that was ascending and then descended back to earth in the cooling process. Some kind of resolution-composition method sufficed for Aristotle to pick out the elements of earth water air and fire and their associated processes of wet-cold, hot-dry and for him there did seem to be a place for teleological explanation in weather systems, organ systems and perhaps also economic systems. Basically energy regulation systems such as weather systems are set to a teleological standard of homeostasis. Viewed from the vantage point of energy regulation Aristotelian teleological physics appears harmless enough. It is, however, when God is brought into the picture as a designer of systems that problems begin to emerge. Aquinas, a commentator and interpreter of the works of Aristotle from a religious point of view attempts to argue that in the inorganic world, “material” which lacks awareness could only have a goal, i.e. act “for the sake of” some end if God directed the process in much the same way as an archer intentionally directs an arrow at a target. This of course, cannot fail to remind us of the passage in the Nichomachean Ethics where Aristotle claims:
“If there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake(everything else being desired for the sake of this)…clearly this must be the good and the chief good. Will not the knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life?Shall one not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what we should do?If so, we must try, in outline at least, to determine what it is.”
Aristotle claims that this end is Eudaimonia, often translated as happiness, but not always happily so. Perhaps a better translation in some contexts would be “a flourishing life”. It is the function of man, Aristotle argues, to lead a flourishing life which for him amounts to living in accordance with areté or virtue which in its turn means doing the right thing at the right time in the right way: all these elements will be involved in the reasons a man gives for doing any particular act. This, in the Freudian scheme of things, would entail that the Reality Principle(Ananke) is the organising principle of ones life.
Aquinas conceives of God as a Supreme Agent, the Supreme Archer but there is very little in Aristotle to support this thesis. Aristotle claims that an arrow falls downward for the same reason that rain falls downward in the weather system, namely earth falls downward because its situational-being is beneath the water and air and this is its natural place. Fire and heat and light(not heavy) heated matter moves upwards because the source of heat is its place, namely, the sun. All these elements are we should be careful to note already formed material (in accordance with the matter-form principle) and it is their form that decides their position and changes of position in the universe. That is, an arrow will fall to earth after having been fired into the air because of the forms that compose it: the wood and the iron are returning to their source—the earth. Now Aristotle in claiming the above was not making the mistake of other early philosophers/poets and claiming that the arrow “wanted” to return to earth. After all, was it not Aristotle who claimed that a tree has a visual form to present to the human eye but that a tree because of its nature cannot itself be aware of visual forms. Did he not maintain that powers build upon powers and that in accordance with this idea only substances that can be perceptually aware of visible forms can “want” and desire and therefore strive to fulfil these wants? Only animals and humans can fire the arrows of desire at their targets. Now, on Aristotle’s account god is pure form but his function is pure thinking which does not desire or aim at objects since all objects are immediately possessed by a pure thinker. God, therefore, cannot in any way be similar to a super-human craftsman creating and shaping the substance of the world over a period of time. The Biblical creation myth is allegorical and meant merely to establish the hierarchy or “Place” of animals in relation to earth and God in relation to man and man in relation to the animals and the rest of the universe. In short God, whilst in some sense being alive does not perceive or desire and his thought has no relation to these powers. There is, it should be noted a significant difference between the philosophical God of Aristotle and the Biblical Mythical God who appears amorphously through the mists of mythological allegory. Aristotle’s God is not a craftsman caring for his creation and he is not therefore the Supreme agent or Supreme archer directing the elements to their natural places. He is rather, pure actuality, pure form, pure thinking. He thinks in a way which is not the realisation of a potential but rather thinks of himself in a timeless infinite “moment” of contemplation. Perhaps Thales shared this conception and perhaps this is what he meant when he said “things are full of gods” as a response to those atheists who believed that the planets were just cold feelingless stone. If God is not thinking as we do about Reality how then should we characterise this thinking. Aristotle brilliantly chose the description/explanation that God thinks about thinking. He therefore cannot be a super-agent or a super-archer. When we are thinking, Aristotle points out, we partake however primitively, in the divinity of contemplation. When we are contemplating, it is during these moments that we are closest to God and the extent to which this occupies a large proportion of our life is the extent to which we lead a flourishing life or the “good spirited(Eudaimonia) life. One cannot but be amazed at the ease with which Aristotle makes his transitions from Metaphysical aporia to Ethical and political Philosophy aporia. These almost seamless transitions were the reason why he was referred to as “The Philosopher” for hundreds of years and “the teacher of our teachers”. Dante referred to Aristotle as “The master of those that know”. This is also the reason why we need to take his definition of Philosophy seriously—the systematic understanding of the world as a systematic whole– in a way that has been done only sporadically by Modern Philosophy since the time of Descartes and Hobbes.
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